It was the win that they desperately needed.
Never mind their opponent, the flailing Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers badly needed two points Sunday night in order to hold down their spot in the standings and, as Matt Read said, “get back to their winning ways.”
And win they did in front of the home crowd, easily handling the Sabres, 5-2.
With the victory, the Flyers put a critical two points between them and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had been temporarily tied with them in the Metropolitan Division standings with 87 points. They also put an end to their four-game losing streak.
Sunday’s game didn’t start off all that well, however. Though they never trailed -- even in shots -- the Flyers seemed sluggish from the opening faceoff. The game’s first 15 minutes were rather evenly matched, with the teams spending time in each other’s zones.
Read, though, gave the Flyers a lead they never looked back from midway through the first period, when he batted home the rebound of a Mark Streit shot from the point that had clanged off the crossbar.
In the second period, things opened up in the Flyers’ favor. By the end of 40 minutes, they led in shots, 29-11, and they’d taken a commanding 4-0 lead thanks to goals from Zac Rinaldo, Brayden Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier (see video). Coach Craig Berube’s slightly shuffled up lines had had their intended effect.
The Sabres broke Steve Mason’s shutout at 12:34 of the third period, during a major penalty Rinaldo incurred for a hit on Chad Ruhwedel (see video). Rinaldo, who had been moved up to the third line, received a match penalty and was kicked out of the game.
That wasn't it for the Flyers, though, as Schenn scored again in the closing minutes of the third period, notching his 20th goal of the season. Mike Weber scored for the Sabres to cut the Flyers' lead to 5-2, but there was little else the Sabres could do with the time they had left.
The win was the Flyers’ first since March 28 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. With four games left to play, they remain in third place in the Metropolitan Division (see standings).
Berube shuffled up the Flyers’ lines after Saturday’s rough outing in Boston. Michael Raffl moved up to center the second line with Schenn and Wayne Simmonds on the wings, while Sean Couturier’s new third line gained Rinaldo while keeping Read.
The Rinaldo factor
Rinaldo continued his success Sunday night in drawing penalties. The Flyers’ feisty winger has become adept at baiting opponents into taking unnecessary calls in recent weeks, and that was the case once again Sunday night. The thing about Rinaldo, though, is that he also takes too many unnecessary penalties, and that was once again the case against the Sabres -- he could face suspension for hitting Ruhwedel in the head. In all, he incurred three minors and a match penalty.
When he arrived in Philadelphia, Streit had long been touted as a defenseman with a dangerous shot from the point. Unfortunately for the Flyers, though, he's been inconsistent at best. But on Sunday, Streit was on. His shot off the post in the first period resulted in Read’s goal, and another shot in the second was tipped in by Schenn to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.
Mason’s assist on Lecavalier’s goal that put the Flyers up 4-0 was the seventh assist of his career -- and the first assist by a Flyers goalie since Mason assisted on a Jakub Voracek goal April 27, 2013.
The Sabres’ record
The Sabres have suited up 44 different players this season. That’s unsurprisingly a new team record.
And speaking of tough stats for the Sabres, ex-Flyer Ville Leino remains without a goal this season. He’s still getting paid that $4.5 million salary, though.